Two months ago, I fell at dress rehearsal, broke my fifth metatarsal and ended up having surgery. While I’m building strength in physical therapy so I can return to dance, I’m wondering how to keep myself strong emotionally during this setback. —Sarah
When you’re injured, it’s easy to fear that you’ll be left behind while everyone else moves ahead. But try to look at this time as an opportunity to slow down and reevaluate. When we’re dancing every day, we easily fall into habits (sometimes not very healthy ones), and we don’t always have the luxury to step back and think about how we’re approaching the process. When you’re injured and going to therapy, you suddenly have all the time in the world to reexamine technical basics—which will benefit your dancing enormously when you eventually return. Trust me—I spent nine months in physical therapy for a labral tear in my hip. It was long and slow—full of baby steps—and was, at times, incredibly frustrating. However, I needed that period to completely reset my alignment (to correct years of compensating) and strengthen weak core muscles. I learned so much about my body’s idiosyncrasies and needs during my recovery. Now, my hip rarely hurts anymore, and I have a greater understanding of turnout, alignment and proper maintenance.
You can also think of this as a perfect opportunity to cultivate other interests besides dance. Let’s face it—an injury is a glaring reminder of how delicate and short our performing careers really are. Delve into your hobbies to get your mind off your injury, or enroll in a class. Take up painting or photography, or crack open that novel you’ve been meaning to read for the last year. Try not to dwell on what you’re missing—you’ll recover eventually, and be a stronger dancer for it.